Getting your heart broken
First time, real time, best friend from 7th grade, loved me unconditionally, I was in a very bad way and about to stay with her. She was killed at 20 in a head on collision. I spent the summer floating around a pool in Princeton, house sitting, seeing a shrink, drinking and trying not to kill myself. In the fall I went as planned to do a year abroad in Ireland and it was better.
Next time, much worse even, my sister killed in a drunken driving accident. Someone going 90 miles an hour in Hoboken hit her as she crossed the street. She was 32, the mother of a beautiful boy and she died after a week on life support. I tried to stay sober, spiraled downwards for 18 months, picked up & got married to someone I didn't like, we made each other miserable until it all stopped, went back to AA, got sober, 25 years ago.
Those are the defining heartbreaks, second tier, divorcing my son's father, seeing my son stoned, my father's depression, this country suffering.
Last week I had a project stolen, I didn't get a job I created, I was betrayed, lied to and humiliated. I woke up this morning feeling the shame creep back, having a moment when I wished I could just stop, whatever that means. But it's not the same, it's just nothing really. An ex-boyfriend's wife dies of ALS, I discover my old roommate from college lost her boy to childhood leukemia, I see pictures of the young men and women returning from Iraq with unbelievable injuries and I can roll my shoulder blades back and recognize how lucky I am.
Fine. But I'm still disappointed, angry, crestfallen (?), disgusted, blah, blah. Last winter I returned to the huge northern suburban school where I had previously worked and left to start my own company. Timo had been laid off and was thinking he needed to boom out to Canada, Edmonton to be precise. So I went back and taught one section of AP, one section of failing seniors who needed an English class and three sections of some weird hybrid called "study lunch" that consisted of seniors who needed help to pass English and had been deprived of their lunches to spend 43 minutes with me and the sandwiches the school provided. Mostly peanut butter. Mostly bad. At first it was ridiculous-angry kids, four books, one teacher, bad food. But then it got better and I started coaching and cajoling and encouraging and supporting and explaining and comforting and they came and brought their friends and we got through Hamlet, Othello, Their Eyes were Watching God and numerous homework assignments. I went down to the kitchen and picked up their food and came back and woke up the sleepers and was left alone in this weirdness because really, with my advanced degrees, my twenty years of teaching, my three published novels, I was a glorified sub. It didn't matter. I loved them and they felt it and I was going to help them graduate and always do better in English.
But then I got this idea for a writing center. A wonderful idea that I shared with a colleague from Northwestern who wanted to partner with a high school. We wrote a proposal together. A proposal for a place for all kids to come to to get help with their writing. It would have peer tutors and it would be the thing that would really change how writing was done at the school.
I sent it to a few people who mostly ignored it except for one guy who tried to steal it. But I persevered and made contacts and waited and had a meeting with someone important who didn't really help much. Finally, it was approved as a job. I visited another school, added to the proposal, insisted it be a full-time position so it would be done properly, was told they were posting the job but I was the person they wanted. Then things got weird, I interviewed twice and was told four days ago they had chosen a different person. For what I created. My baby. My writing. My proposal. My connection to Northwestern. No, it wasn't like those other body blows but it was bad. Really, really bad. And it was completely from the heart and mind and completely for the kids. Because I love them and I always have. It tastes so bitter but not heartbreak. Not quite that.